Monday, April 18, 2011

Following the Path to the Cross

From The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger, O.S.B.

Monday in Holy Week

This morning Jesus goes with His disciples to Jerusalem.  He is fasting, for the Gospel tells us that He was hungry. (1)  He approaches a fig tree which is by the wayside; but finds nothing on it, save leaves only.  Jesus, wishing to give us an instruction, curses the fig tree which immediately withers away.  He would hereby teach us what they are to expect, who have nothing but good desires, and never produce in themselves the fruit of real conversion.  Nor is the allusion to Jerusalem less evident.  This city is zealous for the exterior of divine worship; but her heart is hard and obstinate, and she is plotting, at this very hour, the death of the Son of God.

The greater portion of the day is spent in the temple, where Jesus holds long conversations with the chief priests and ancients of the people.  His language to them is stronger than ever, and triumphs over all their captious questions.  It is principally in the Gospel of St. Matthew (2) that we shall find these answers of our Redeemer, which so energetically accuse the Jews for their sin of rejecting the Messias, and so plainly foretell the punishment their sin is to bring after it.

At length, Jesus leaves the temple, and takes the road that leads to Bethania.  Having come as far as Mount Olivet, which commands a view of Jerusalem, He sits down and rests awhile.  The disciples take this opportunity of asking Him how soon the chastisements He has been speaking of in the temple will come upon the city.  His answer comprises two events:  the destruction of Jerusalem, and the final destruction of the world.  He thus teaches them that the first is the figure of the second.  The time when each is to happen, is to be when the measure of iniquity is filled up.  But, with regard to the chastisement that is to befall Jerusalem, He gives this more definite answer: ' Amen I say to you; this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.' (3) History tells us how this prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled:  forty years had scarcely elapsed after His ascension, when the Roman army encamped on this very place where He is now speaking to His disciples, and laid siege to the ungrateful and wicked city.  After giving a prophetic description of that last judgment, which is to rectify all the unjust judgments of men, He leaves Mount Olivet, returns to Bethania, and consoles the anxious heart of His most holy Mother.

The Station, at Rome, is in the church of Saint Praxedes.  It is in this church that Pope Paschal I, in the ninth century, placed two thousand three hundred bodies of holy martyrs, which he had ordered to be taken out of the catacombs.  The pillar to which our Saviour was tied during His scourging is also here.

1.  St. Matt,. xxi. 18
2.  Chapters xxi, xxii, and xxiii.
3. St. Matt. xxiv. 34

The Gospel of today's Mass:
John 12, 1-9

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised to life, had died. And they made Him a supper there; and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with Him.  Mary therefore took a pound of ointment, genuine nard of great value, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and with her hair wiped His feet dry.  And the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.*  Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, he who was about to betray Him, said, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?"  Now he said this, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and holding the purse, used to take what was put in it.  Jesus therefore said, "Let her be -- that she may keep it for the day of My burial.  For the poor you have always with you, but you do not always have Me."  Now the great crowd of the Jews learned that He was there; and they came, not only because of Jesus, but that they might see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.  S. Praise be to Thee, O Christ.
P. The Lord be with you.  S.  And with thy spirit.

* What did this oil smell like?   NARD (Spikenard) is used even today as an essential oil with healing potential for stress situations and is also said to be useful in many other applications, internal and external.  When freshly crushed, the root has a very sweet scent, but as it is produced (by steam extraction) into the oil, it is a more semi-sweet, musky odor.

It retains its scent indefinitely when kept in a closed jar or container, and can be reconstituted if it dries out by placing into a closed jar or container and allowed to have a room-temperature curing time.

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